Disclaimer: I don't own Kite Runner. (Let's face it, I'm not smart enough to write a book like that.) I'm not making money off this story, either.
A/N: Originally completed 7/17/10. Reading the book, I learned that "Kaka" is kind of like "Uncle," and can be used as a fond name or in reference to one's real uncle (correct me if I'm wrong). That's where the idea for this story began. It's not my favorite piece of work...but anyway.
The ~~~ lines represent flashbacks or "flash-forwards"-skipping back or ahead through huge chunks of time. The horizontal lines stretching across the page represent short time jump, scene change, or POV change.
Please review it once you view it!
School had been out for an hour now, and Sohrab hadn't yet come home. Amir had come up with several reasons for his nephew's absence. After-school activities, for example. He might have gone over to a friend's house. Or he could have done something wrong and been kept after school in detention.
Even though he ran the explanations through his head with a guise of logic, Amir knew that not one of them could be true. After having stayed in America for six months, Sohrab had no friends—none that he had introduced to Amir, anyway. Still struggling to master English, Sohrab had never signed up for extracurricular programs. And whether he was at home or at school, Sohrab certainly never got into trouble. He was too meek and quiet for that.
Soraya let herself in by the front door. She smiled sunnily at her husband and came over to where he was sitting at his desk.
"Hi. How's the story going?" As the question left her lips, her eyes fell on the still-empty sheet of paper sticking out of the typewriter. "Oh. Haven't come up with anything yet?" She smiled again and leaned down to kiss him. "Don't worry. You'll think of something soon." Glancing around the room, she asked, "When did Sohrab come in?"
Amir met his wife's eyes with his own troubled ones. In his native language he replied, "He hasn't gotten back yet."
"What?" Someone who didn't know Soraya might have thought that she didn't understand Dari, from the way she stared blankly at her husband. "Not back yet?" Then she, too, switched to the Afghanistani language in her anxiety. "Then where is he?"
Amir shook his head helplessly. "I don't know."
"Have you gone to look for him?"
"I checked the bus stop," he admitted with a sigh, "but I was afraid to stay away from the house for long, in case he came home while I was gone." Between him and his wife, they always made sure that at least one of them was home when Sohrab came home from school. He had been orphaned and abandoned in Afghanistan, and Amir wanted his nephew to know that, here in America, he wouldn't have to be alone anymore. He rose and left the room briskly. "I'm going to find him. Stay here; he might come home while I'm gone." She nodded pensively. In an effort to cheer her, Amir added, "He probably went over to a friend's house." But they both knew it was a lie.
This story was familiar. It had happened before. . .
"It's a game, Hassan." Amir thought he was doing a good job of convincing his friend, but Hassan continued to look troubled. "You like games," Amir reminded him. Hassan shook his head doubtfully.
"It doesn't sound like a game to me, Amir."
Frustration made Amir scowl. "It's like a secret for just the two of us," he pointed out, changing tactics. "Only we will know about it."
"That's the problem," Hassan said. He had his timid yet self-righteous, I'm-right-and-you're-wrong attitude about him that was starting to make Amir mad. "I don't think it's the kind of thing that should be kept quiet. People will wonder where you are—"
"It'll be just like hide-and-go-seek," Amir coaxed him. Hassan gave a sigh.
"I don't think you should do this, Amir," he murmured. Seeing that he was fighting a losing battle, Amir gave up trying to make Hassan see things his way.
"You won't tell anyone, will you?" he asked, knowing already that Hassan wouldn't. He would walk across a bed of hot coals if Amir asked him to do it.
"I'll keep your secret," Hassan agreed softly, although Amir noticed that he called it Amir's secret and thus removed himself from implication as much as he could. Amir gratefully chucked his friend on the shoulder.
"They won't miss me in school," he reminded his friend. He had made sure to stage his little game on a day when he was free of schoolwork.
"Nevertheless, you will be missed," Hassan told him seriously.
"Are you kidding?" Amir called back, pasting on a grin as he went out the door. "They'll never even notice I'm gone!"
Amir's game was sort of like an experiment. How well could he hide, and for how long, before someone came looking for him? Who would notice his absence, and how long after he'd left would he be missed? He walked to the far end of town and down an alley. There, he got down onto his belly and slithered under a shelf jutting out from the wall of a building. The overhang was just far enough from the ground that he could fit when he pressed flat on his stomach. Only he knew about this hiding place. After following Hassan down here many times while they were running kites, Amir had discovered it. He hadn't told his friend about it—the idea of having his own secret place to hide away was too tempting. He settled himself in the dark shade and rested his head on his folded arms. Hassan was too optimistic; no one would realize he had left until he returned home tonight. He would prove his friend wrong.
Unfortunately—although not unexpectedly—for Hassan, Ali noticed right away that Amir wasn't at home. It was hard not to notice, because Amir and Hassan went nearly everywhere together. While they were out doing yard work, Ali asked, "Hassan-jan, where has Amir gone?"
Hassan kept his eyes down and his hands busy as he answered, "He went out."
"Where to?" Ali asked, curious. He seemed perplexed that Hassan wouldn't know where his friend had gone, but Amir hadn't told Hassan where he was going—only that he was planning to hide. So Hassan spoke the truth when he answered,
"I don't know." Ali looked at his boy for a moment, but didn't say more. They went back to work, and that was the end of the conversation.
But Rahim Khan came over that day, and the first thing he asked when he saw them in the yard was, "Where is Amir today?" Ali looked from Hassan to Rahim and lifted his shoulder in an uneasy shrug. Rahim automatically glanced at Hassan and asked, "Hassan, do you know where Amir is?" Hassan, too, shrugged. Guiltily, he avoided the men's questioning gazes. He had promised to keep Amir's secret. Besides, he couldn't tell them what they wanted to know— he didn't know where to find Amir, and that was the truth.
Rahim Khan and Amir's father talked, ate lunch. Finally came the question from Amir's father's lips that made Hassan swallow hard. "I haven't seem Amir around today. Where is he?" Hassan grabbed an armload of dishes and left the room quickly, before the question became his problem. He heard Rahim Khan say,
"No one knows. Apparently, he left earlier this morning."
"He left without Hassan? Strange." A pause followed. "Ali, do you know where Amir is?" Hassan heard his father reply, "No, I don't."
"Well, surely Hassan knows?" Amir's father pressed him.
"No, I've asked him, and he said he doesn't know, either." The chair scraped across the floor as Amir's father got up.
"What is that boy doing?" he irritably asked no one in particular. Going out into the yard, he called for his son. "Amir? Amir! Come, now, that's enough! Amir!" He came back in and spotted Hassan. "Is he playing a joke?" His question came out in an angry growl. Hassan bit his lip, shrugged, and made himself scarce. Amir's father could be frightening at times like this.
Soon Amir's father sent Hassan and Ali out to look for him, while he stalked around the house in a thunderous mood, every so often going to a window as though he thought Amir might suddenly turn up. Rahim Khan tried to cool him down with sensible suggestions, like saying Amir might've gone to the movies, or shopping for wares down at the bazaar. Hassan was worried, though. Had Amir gotten into trouble, or worse? With boys like Assef roaming the streets, no boy could be completely safe.
Together, Ali and Hassan made a fruitless search for the missing Amir. Hassan led his father to all the places he and Amir liked to go, but they didn't find him. When they returned home, Ali and Hassan weren't the only ones who were getting frantic. Rahim Khan looked agitated, and Amir's father, in his own stoic way, was deeply worried. He sent everyone out to look, and this time, he came with them to conduct his own search. They scoured the streets, the marketplace, everything, desperate to find Amir.
After being crunched up under the building for hours, Amir was hugely relieved to hear footsteps coming up the alley. Someone had actually come looking for him! Now he could finally come out of hiding. "Amir! Amir, where are you?" It was Rahim Khan; Amir could tell. He sounded scared, unlike Amir had ever heard him. He poked his head out, grinning despite himself as his name was called again. Hassan had been right after all—they had missed Amir. It was nice to know that someone cared.
Rahim Khan's eyes flew wide open as Amir scooted out of hiding and stood up. Just as he was stretching his cramped muscles, Rahim grabbed his arms as though he were afraid Amir might run away at any moment. "Amir-jan, what is this? Why were you hiding?" It was strange to hear him talking in a trembling voice. "Were you afraid of something?"
"Neh. It was just a game," explained Amir with a grin. Rahim Khan didn't smile back.
"A game?" he repeated, as though he couldn't believe his ears.
"Bale," Amir said, nodding. "I wanted to see how long I could hide for before someone noticed I was gone." He grinned again. "It worked pretty well. I never thought someone would really come to look for me—"
Rahim shook him by the shoulders, stopping him in mid-sentence. "Never do this again, Amir! Do you hear me? Hechva!" Amir had never seen Rahim Khan get angry. Now, as he saw the glower on the man's face, he shrank away. He did not like to see Rahim Khan like this. He wanted to make it all right between them again. Reaching up timidly, he touched Rahim's cheek.
"I'm sorry, Kaka Rahim," he squeaked. Tears stung his eyes but wouldn't fall. Rahim Khan seemed to melt at his apology, and he snatched Amir up into a hug.
"Amir-jan," he sighed out Amir's pet name in relief. "Everyone was worried about you."
"I-I thought no one would miss me," Amir admitted to him.
"What?" Rahim looked down at him, taken aback. "What a foolish thing to say. Everyone missed you."
"Even Baba?" Amir asked in a whisper. Rahim Khan's face softened.
"Bale. Even Baba," he reassured Amir.
Through the streets, down at the bazaar, past the wide-open fields Amir went, searching for his nephew. Where would he go, if he were Sohrab? He racked his brain while scanning around with his hand above his eyes. Solitary places were a favorite of Sohrab's. But that fact hardly narrowed the search down at all. He didn't have a clue as to any of Sohrab's haunts. He was at his wit's end, and the end of his rope. Had everything he had gone through in Afghanistan to save his best friend's son—now like his own son—been for nothing? What if Sohrab was—?
But, to his inexpressible relief, he saw from afar the familiar face he was looking for. Sohrab was sitting under a bridge, on the rocky shore of the river, his knees drawn up to his chest. Amir let out a trembling breath and ran all the way over to him. "Sohrab!" he panted. Sohrab scanned his face anxiously, now aware that he had caused his uncle a remarkable amount of grief. No doubt he thought that Amir would be angry with him. In reality, Amir felt no such thing. He was too busy blinking tears of relief from his eyes.
"I'm sorry, Kaka Amir," Sohrab choked out in Farsi, tears of his own suddenly flooding his eyes when he realized how much he had made Amir worry. "I just wanted to be alone. I didn't think about you and—"
"Sohrab-jan," murmured Amir, embracing his nephew tightly. "It's all right. I'm just glad I found you."
The story had come full circle, and was now complete.
~~~ The End ~~~